Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. If I Could Change 1 Big Life Decision, I’d Listen to My Faculty Advisor

 

I was a psychology major in college, for the wrong reason. Earlier, when I was in junior high school, my parents took me to the University of Washington Adolescent Clinic. It was their opinion that I was a screwed-up kid, and needed help. In my opinion, I was just fine, and someone else in the family was the problem. But since I was the kid, parents ruled. The intake procedure for the clinic was a big meeting around a conference table, with me, my mother, and four clinicians, including a psychiatrist. They asked me and my mom questions, and we answered. I enjoyed the meeting and answered everyone’s questions honestly. After the meeting, I met with the psychiatrist, a very nice lady. What she told me was that I was correct. I was fine. Mom was the problem. That took a huge weight off me, and I decided then and there that I wanted to be a psychologist when I grew up. Uh, wrong.

So I majored in psychology at college. I really, really wanted to be a counselor, so I could help kids like I was helped. In my senior year of college, I was required to take a course called “Research Participation”, or “rat-running” in the local psych slang. I had to design an experiment involving running rats through a maze; compile the data; and write a paper with the results. I had no real interest in research, but I did it anyway. I came up with the bright idea of exposing one group of rats to loud noise, and the other group of rats to no noise; run them all through the maze afterward, and see if the two groups’ performance was different. My lab partner was my boyfriend, who was afraid of rats! So I handled the rats, and he compiled the data. We found some really screechy music, and I took the record to the AV lab and made a continuous loop of tape with this really awful music, to play for the study group of rats (the others were the control group). Then, every night for a week, I would go to the lab and for an hour I played the noise for the study rats, then spend some time with the control rats, so they all saw me for the same length of time.

At the end of the study week, we took all the rats and ran them through the maze, making notes on their behavior in the maze, like how long it took each rat to get to the food in the center, and what they did while in the maze. And the results were amazing (ooh! pun!). The study rats who were exposed to the noise were jumpy, excitable, and none of them actually made it to the food in the center of the maze. The control rats got to the food after some time in the maze and had no problems.

I wrote the paper on our experiment, my boyfriend did the statistical analysis, and we presented the paper to our instructor. Afterward, we met with the instructor to go over our results, and he said he was very impressed with our work. In fact, he offered to spend some time with us and perhaps prepare the paper for submission for publication in a psychology research journal. Well, I said no, I wasn’t interested in research, I really wanted to be a counselor.

I applied to various graduate schools and was accepted to the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Minnesota. I went to Minneapolis by myself, found a place to live, and started school. I enjoyed my courses, and did well, up until the time when I had to do the actual in-person counseling. I had a student to counsel, and I was videotaped in the background. After the session, I met with the instructor and she told me that I wasn’t all that great, and perhaps I should choose another field of study. But I said I wanted to keep going, and she shrugged and said OK, if you want to.

So I finished that graduate program, got my MA in Counseling Psychology, and … no job. I looked for work for months, took temp jobs to bring in some cash to live on, and no luck. So we went back to Seattle. I never did find a counseling job, and after working a volunteer job on a local crisis line, came to the conclusion that my advisor had been correct, I would not have made a good psychologist at all. I should have listened.

And years later, while reading a newspaper, I discovered that, back in 1970, I had actually done the seminal research on the effect of noise on behavior! If I had listened to my faculty advisor and instructor, and prepared that paper for publication, I might have been famous and had a career in psychology research. Definitive research on noise and behavior didn’t get published until sometime in the 1990s — I was 20 years ahead when I was a senior in college.

That bad decision has rankled for years. It turns out that I really do like doing research, on most any subject. I like the hunt for information, finding sources, and writing papers. Even in grad school, when I got to work with the authors of the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory test, I liked working with the researchers, and my boyfriend and I were in the “control” group for the new version. Too bad I didn’t listen to both of my faculty advisors. If I could go back and change that one decision, my whole life might have been different.

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  1. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    But … you didn’t like research back then. You can’t know that your distaste wouldn’t have grown.

    • #1
    • September 27, 2020, at 6:06 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Weeping Member

    And there are things/people/events in your life that probably wouldn’t have happened if you’d done things differently – things you really wouldn’t want to have missed.

    • #2
    • September 27, 2020, at 6:20 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. The Reticulator Member

    If you had done things differently, you wouldn’t have this great story to tell! (Take that, @arahant)

    • #3
    • September 27, 2020, at 6:46 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. Sisyphus Coolidge
    SisyphusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    If you had done things differently, you wouldn’t have this great story to tell! (Take that, @arahant)

    She would have a different story to tell. And maybe she wouldn’t even live near the wonders of Seattle. Oh my.

    • #4
    • September 27, 2020, at 7:00 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  5. Mark Camp Member

    Now that is a moving story. Thank you, RB. 

    • #5
    • September 27, 2020, at 7:03 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    (Take that, Arahant)

    I don’t see how that has anything to do with me.

    • #6
    • September 27, 2020, at 9:35 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. The Reticulator Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    (Take that, Arahant)

    I don’t see how that has anything to do with me.

    Punctuation.

    • #7
    • September 27, 2020, at 9:45 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Flicker Coolidge

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):
    (Take that, Arahant)

    I don’t see how that has anything to do with me.

    Punctuation.

    I find myself using my exclamation marks and my colons more.

    • #8
    • September 27, 2020, at 9:50 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  9. Arahant Member

    Flicker (View Comment):
    I find myself using my exclamation marks and my colons more.

    We don’t want to know about your bowel movements.

    • #9
    • September 27, 2020, at 9:54 PM PDT
    • 9 likes
  10. Flicker Coolidge

    [redacted]

    • #10
    • September 27, 2020, at 10:00 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  11. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49

    Guys, please quit hijacking my thread and take your argument to the PIT. 

    • #11
    • September 27, 2020, at 10:10 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  12. Arahant Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Guys, please quit hijacking my thread and take your argument to the PIT.

    But look at all the psychological research that is presenting itself here.

    • #12
    • September 27, 2020, at 10:13 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  13. J. D. Fitzpatrick Member
    J. D. FitzpatrickJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OK. But would you have been convinced deep down that you had made the right decision? Maybe you would become unhappy thinking about yourself as “A person who always follows authority.” 

    Also, had you gone the academic route, how happy would you have been in a university setting? Apart from the leftist politics, there’s the constant pressure to publish, having to teach undergrads things they should have learned in high school, and, oh, I don’t know—a few more things that you can probably think of. 

    Are there people you would never have met had you listened to your advisor? 

    Just a few thoughts. 

    • #13
    • September 27, 2020, at 10:26 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  14. Flicker Coolidge

    But seriously RB, sure I’ve thought about how I could have lived a better life and been a better person, but as far as changing decisions I’ve made, I think that God had more of a hand in things than I did, frankly. But the decisions I’ve made were the result of who I was at the time. And all things considered I’ve had a pretty good life. And I don’t know that things would have gone better if I had gone a different direction. In fact things could have been rather worse. There are people I wouldn’t have met, and places I wouldn’t have gone, and things I’d never have experienced. I would be a different person today.

    • #14
    • September 28, 2020, at 12:21 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  15. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    A thoughtful reflection on life choices playing off September’s theme “If I was a —, I would —.” Do join in October’s theme “It was a dark and stormy night. . . .”

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #15
    • September 28, 2020, at 2:29 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  16. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron MillerJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    In modern video games, you can replay the story with different decisions to see what comes of them. It would be nice if life was like that. 

    Or not. It’s a Wonderful Life is an inspiring tale. But an opposite scenario is possible. One day I might meet God and He will show me how much more I could have done. 

    Better or worse, roads not travelled are best forgotten.

    • #16
    • September 28, 2020, at 2:32 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I had a Poli-Sci professor urge me to change my major from Communications Studies to Political Science after I was the only student in the class that didn’t get an F on the first term paper (I got an A). I told her that I wasn’t really interested in politics. Ironic, since I’ve worked in politics for almost 20 years now.

    The reason I got an A was largely because I didn’t care about politics, and so I’d simply followed the instructions for the term paper. All the other students got Fs because they cared oh-so-much about politics and so they injected their own political opinions into the term paper, which was NOT part of the instructions. The professor did not give two figs about the political opinions of a bunch of undergraduates.

    Also, the reason I’ve been employed in politics is largely because I didn’t have a poli-sci degree, therefore I’ve been able to demonstrate skills that most other applicants cannot. Basically, I’m a “communications guy” who just happens to work for politicians because they don’t get a lot of “communications guys” applying for jobs.

    Here’s the thing: I had zero luck getting jobs with advertising agencies or public relations firms or production companies, etc etc etc, because in those cases I was competing with other “communications guys” from better schools and/or with better resumes. If I had switched to Poli-Sci it’s a fair wager that I would have never been able to get a job in politics because I would have been competing against other Poli-Sci grads from better schools and/or with better resumes.

    Getting the job is about standing out from the pack. Today I interview candidates for internships whose resumes are way more impressive than mine was when I was starting out, with the glaring exception that they have no skills.

    • #17
    • September 28, 2020, at 2:35 PM PDT
    • 13 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  18. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    If your instructor had said there are no jobs in counseling and more opportunities in research perhaps you would have listened to her.

    But your instructor said you were not good at counseling which may or may not have been true.

    I think the moral of the story is you shouldn’t box yourself into one corner at a young age.

    I have regrets about my college major: history. I didn’t want to be a historian or teach history, what was I thinking???

     

    • #18
    • September 28, 2020, at 2:40 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):
    I have regrets about my college major: history. I didn’t want to be a historian or teach history, what was I thinking???

    History is a good foundation for all sorts of careers. My buddy, for example, is a fairly successful financial advisor, and he credits “thinking historically” for at least some of his success.

    • #19
    • September 28, 2020, at 2:49 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  20. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Misthiocracy got drunk and (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):
    I have regrets about my college major: history. I didn’t want to be a historian or teach history, what was I thinking???

    History is a good foundation for all sorts of careers. My buddy, for example, is a fairly successful financial advisor, and he credits “thinking historically” for at least some of his success.

    what does your friend think of bitcoin lol?

    • #20
    • September 28, 2020, at 2:59 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    If your instructor had said there are no jobs in counseling and more opportunities in research perhaps you would have listened to her.

    But your instructor said you were not good at counseling which may or may not have been true.

    I think the moral of the story is you shouldn’t box yourself into one corner at a young age.

    I have regrets about my college major: history. I didn’t want to be a historian or teach history, what was I thinking???

     

    Oh, my instructor’s observation was 100% true. When it came right down to it, I really didn’t like counseling at all-that’s why my career choice was dead wrong. I ended up as a hospital pharmacy technician for 10 years, and got very good at it, but went as far as I could without a pharmacy degree. In the summers while in college, I worked in the traffic department at the Ford Motor Company Seattle parts depot, and really liked that. If I had changed my major to business, it might not have taken me such a long time to find my career home in industrial purchasing. I just retired after 30 years (with many interruptions) doing that.

    • #21
    • September 28, 2020, at 3:08 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  22. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    If your instructor had said there are no jobs in counseling and more opportunities in research perhaps you would have listened to her.

    But your instructor said you were not good at counseling which may or may not have been true.

    I think the moral of the story is you shouldn’t box yourself into one corner at a young age.

    I have regrets about my college major: history. I didn’t want to be a historian or teach history, what was I thinking???

     

    Oh, my instructor’s observation was 100% true. When it came right down to it, I really didn’t like counseling at all-that’s why my career choice was dead wrong. I ended up as a hospital pharmacy technician for 10 years, and got very good at it, but went as far as I could without a pharmacy degree. In the summers while in college, I worked in the traffic department at the Ford Motor Company Seattle parts depot, and really liked that. If I had changed my major to business, it might not have taken me such a long time to find my career home in industrial purchasing. I just retired after 30 years (with many interruptions) doing that.

    Industrial purchasing sounds like an interesting job.

    Definitely not common?

     

    • #22
    • September 28, 2020, at 3:35 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. Mark Camp Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    When it came right down to it, I really didn’t like counseling at all

    I thought that your story made this clear.

    What you liked was receiving good counseling when you were a patient. As a young, naive person, you thought that meant that you would like giving counseling.

    We almost all commit this producer/consumer conflation when we are young. “I love surfing! I am going to run a surf shop when I grow up!” Then we find out that running a surf shop means you can never leave the shop to go surfing. Your employees would steal all the merchandise and the money in the till, and insult your customers so they would never come back, and OSHA would put you on a 90 day improvement plan because one of your aisles didn’t have EXIT signs of the right height, threatening to shut you down and demanding that you complete a 90 page questionnaire.

    “I love sailing! I am going to be a yacht broker when I grow up.” Then your boss threatens to fire you if you don’t start lying about the quality defects in the hulls of XYZ brand boats–you aren’t making quota. The only time you set foot on a boat is when some rich slobs are on it with you and you are trying to talk up their bid price the whole time.

    Studies show that between 1.6 and 9.7 quazillion teenage girls have made an unfortunate short-term career choice with the words, “I LOVE horses! I want to work in a stable.”

    • #23
    • September 28, 2020, at 3:36 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  24. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    When it came right down to it, I really didn’t like counseling at all

    I thought that your story made this clear.

    What you liked was receiving good counseling when you were a patient. As a young, naive person, you thought that meant that you would like giving counseling.

    We almost all commit this producer/consumer conflation when we are young. “I love surfing! I am going to run a surf shop when I grow up!” Then we find out that running a surf shop means you can never leave the shop to go surfing. Your employees would steal all the merchandise and the money in the till, and insult your customers so they would never come back, and OSHA would put you on a 90 day improvement plan because one of your aisles didn’t have EXIT signs of the right height, threatening to shut you down and demanding that you complete a 90 page questionnaire.

    “I love sailing! I am going to be a yacht broker when I grow up.” Then your boss threatens to fire you if you don’t start lying about the quality defects in the hulls of XYZ brand boats–you aren’t making quota. The only time you set foot on a boat is when some rich slobs are on it with you and you are trying to talk up their bid price the whole time.

    Studies show that between 1.6 and 9.7 quazillion teenage girls have made an unfortunate short-term career choice with the words, “I LOVE horses! I want to work in a stable.”

    or ponies

     

    • #24
    • September 28, 2020, at 3:43 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Studies show that between 1.6 and 9.7 quazillion teenage girls have made an unfortunate short-term career choice with the words, “I LOVE horses! I want to work in a stable.”

    A summer job ought to fix that right up.

    • #25
    • September 28, 2020, at 3:45 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  26. Mark Camp Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Studies show that between 1.6 and 9.7 quazillion teenage girls have made an unfortunate short-term career choice with the words, “I LOVE horses! I want to work in a stable.”

    A summer job ought to fix that right up.

    Yes, that’s the unfortunate short-term career choice.

    • #26
    • September 28, 2020, at 3:47 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  27. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Studies show that between 1.6 and 9.7 quazillion teenage girls have made an unfortunate short-term career choice with the words, “I LOVE horses! I want to work in a stable.”

    A summer job ought to fix that right up.

    Yes, that’s the unfortunate short-term career choice.

    If mucking stalls in July doesn’t cure them, then maybe they’re serious.

    • #27
    • September 28, 2020, at 4:03 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    If your instructor had said there are no jobs in counseling and more opportunities in research perhaps you would have listened to her.

    But your instructor said you were not good at counseling which may or may not have been true.

    I think the moral of the story is you shouldn’t box yourself into one corner at a young age.

    I have regrets about my college major: history. I didn’t want to be a historian or teach history, what was I thinking???

     

    Oh, my instructor’s observation was 100% true. When it came right down to it, I really didn’t like counseling at all-that’s why my career choice was dead wrong. I ended up as a hospital pharmacy technician for 10 years, and got very good at it, but went as far as I could without a pharmacy degree. In the summers while in college, I worked in the traffic department at the Ford Motor Company Seattle parts depot, and really liked that. If I had changed my major to business, it might not have taken me such a long time to find my career home in industrial purchasing. I just retired after 30 years (with many interruptions) doing that.

    Industrial purchasing sounds like an interesting job.

    Definitely not common?

     

    Actually, Purchasing is a very common career-every business, large or small, has someone doing the purchasing function. In very small businesses, the owner or someone in finance might do the purchasing, inventory, office supplies, services, the whole shebang. Bigger businesses will have a purchasing or procurement department. Industrial and corporate buyers purchase everything any business needs to function, from toilet paper and soap for the bathrooms, to raw materials if it’s a manufacturing business, to office supplies and computers. When I was in community college working on a 2-year Purchasing Management degree, I had to take a Communications course. We had to write and present a paper for the class, and mine was entitled “Industrial Purchasing: How to Go Shopping and Get Paid for it”. I got an A on that paper. In my career in Purchasing, I have bought commodities ranging from food for a pizza restaurant (30,000 lbs of cheese a week), to computer hardware and software, to sheet metal and electronic components. Purchasing mostly works behind the scenes in most businesses, but one buyer on vacation and not replaced can bring a company to a screeching halt if something important for the business is not ordered or received on time.

    • #28
    • September 28, 2020, at 4:07 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  29. MISTER BITCOIN Member

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    If your instructor had said there are no jobs in counseling and more opportunities in research perhaps you would have listened to her.

    But your instructor said you were not good at counseling which may or may not have been true.

    I think the moral of the story is you shouldn’t box yourself into one corner at a young age.

    I have regrets about my college major: history. I didn’t want to be a historian or teach history, what was I thinking???

     

    Oh, my instructor’s observation was 100% true. When it came right down to it, I really didn’t like counseling at all-that’s why my career choice was dead wrong. I ended up as a hospital pharmacy technician for 10 years, and got very good at it, but went as far as I could without a pharmacy degree. In the summers while in college, I worked in the traffic department at the Ford Motor Company Seattle parts depot, and really liked that. If I had changed my major to business, it might not have taken me such a long time to find my career home in industrial purchasing. I just retired after 30 years (with many interruptions) doing that.

    Industrial purchasing sounds like an interesting job.

    Definitely not common?

     

    Actually, Purchasing is a very common career-every business, large or small, has someone doing the purchasing function. In very small businesses, the owner or someone in finance might do the purchasing, inventory, office supplies, services, the whole shebang. Bigger businesses will have a purchasing or procurement department. Industrial and corporate buyers purchase everything any business needs to function, from toilet paper and soap for the bathrooms, to raw materials if it’s a manufacturing business, to office supplies and computers. When I was in community college working on a 2-year Purchasing Management degree, I had to take a Communications course. We had to write and present a paper for the class, and mine was entitled “Industrial Purchasing: How to Go Shopping and Get Paid for it”. I got an A on that paper. In my career in Purchasing, I have bought commodities ranging from food for a pizza restaurant (30,000 lbs of cheese a week), to computer hardware and software, to sheet metal and electronic components. Purchasing mostly works behind the scenes in most businesses, but one buyer on vacation and not replaced can bring a company to a screeching halt if something important for the business is not ordered or received on time.

    Did you use quick books or special software?

     

    • #29
    • September 28, 2020, at 4:17 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49

    I think there might be demand for a post on industrial/corporate purchasing. I will work up one and try to address all the questions. 

    • #30
    • September 28, 2020, at 5:38 PM PDT
    • 8 likes